Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Healthy Dose of Guilt

I am a member of our health incentive program at work. Recently, the program challenged teams to form in an effort to maintain our weight over the holidays. Basically, we recorded our weight in November. In January, we will return to record our weight. Each team that maintains their weight within 2 pounds of their original weight over the holidays wins. I decided to do this for my own health. However, I also knew that if my boss and assistant were depending on me I would be more likely to watch my weight.
So far, this has been very challenging. I have made some significant life style changes. I am not drinking drinks with sugar. I do allow myself coffee with flavored creamer, but that is all. I also went to Whole Foods and bought whole grain oatmeal, chocolate soy milk and other healthy snacks.

The major change that I have made is joining the fitness center at work. I was a member of the Y before the kids were born and I worked out early in the morning before work. Now I am trying to manage my schedule so that I will be able to fit in exercise in the morning or at lunch. I am most excited about attending Yoga classes.

I struggle with feeling guilty about the exercise. I feel guilty because time spent at the gym is time that I could be spending with the kids, my husband, etc. I always feel guilty when I do things for myself. For some reason, I have an idealized image of the perfect woman/mother. In my mind, the perfect woman/mother is completely selfless, and she sacrifices everything for the happiness of those around her (even if the sacrifices make her miserable). Of course I do not live up to this ideal, and anytime that I do things solely for me, I tend to feel guilty. I feel especially guilty because I am a working mother. I feel that every spare moment away from work should be focused on my kids.

Recently, some very balanced and mentally healthy friends have started to change my view. I tend to view myself as an island surrounded by others. I have falsely believed that I can give and give and give without nurturing myself. I have confused developing a sense of self with being selfish. I am gradually learning that being selfish is vastly different from having a sense of self. The fact of the matter is that I am not an island. If I do not take time to discover who I am, what I believe, what I enjoy, etc., I will ultimately have no sense of self. If I have no sense of self, I will be unhappy, and I risk raising kids that also have no sense of self. The last thing I want to do is teach my kids that they should make decisions based on what others think or external validation that they may receive. I want to teach my kids to find activities that they enjoy and to love themselves. I hope that in my journey to find myself, I will teach my kids the importance of taking time for themselves so that they can know who they are and what they believe.

However, I do not know how to get past the guilt of being a working professional mother. I often feel that I am giving work 30%, family 30%, friends/community/other 30%, and perhaps I have 10% left over for God. I enjoy my job, and I enjoy the sense of fulfillment that it brings. I am also proud that my kids will see that I am a well rounded individual with many facets to my personality. However, I always feel so torn. I feel that I am not giving anything 100%. Everyone always talks about balance, but there is no real balance. Something is always getting the short end of the stick. There are times when work takes so much of me that my family is short changed. There are also times when my family takes so much of me that work is short changed. All of the guilt is often magnified by being a Christian. Instead of finding a loving community of people that understand that some mothers need to work or choose to work, most Christian leaders and authors tend to spend their energy telling mothers the many reasons that they are destroying their children by working outside the home. This makes me very sad.

Saturday, November 04, 2006